This post is Fish Welfare Initiative's contribution to Marginal Funding Week. To note, we're posting here in our capacities as cofounders of FWI.
We're planning to post a fuller update in the coming week, but wanted to make this funding-specific post for Marginal Funding Week. Here, we discuss what we'd do with marginal funds, as well as the reasons for and against a donation to FWI.
What would FWI do with marginal funds?
Marginal funding right now would go to filling FWI's 2024 funding gap, which is most of our ~$750,000 annual budget. Specifically, this funding would go towards the following main outcomes:
- Enabling several in-field studies to test welfare improvements and interventions that have the potential to be more promising than what we are currently implementing.
- Implementing our current program by expanding it to another 100 fish farms and helping the animals in these farms via stocking density and/or water quality improvements.
- Other work we believe is useful, such as policy and stakeholder work that may later enable us to more effectively scale.
All of the above work will take place in India, which, primarily for its scale and tractability, we have identified as a country with particularly large potential for reducing farmed fish suffering. We will also likely conduct further work in China next year—we intend to publish our plans for there in the coming months.
You can see FWI's planned 2024 OKRs for more specific information.
Reasons in favor of a donation to FWI
Note that this and the following section are repeated from content present on our donation page FAQ.
The following are some arguments in favor of donating to FWI, roughly in descending order of our view of their significance:
Reason #1: FWI’s potential for impact
The scope of the problem we face is huge: Billions of farmed fishes live in our countries of operation (India and China) alone, their living conditions are often very poor, and virtually nothing has been done to address these issues so far. Furthermore, the fact that we have already had promising inroads with farmers and other key stakeholders in these contexts suggests that we are able to make traction on these problems. Without any obvious limiting factors here then, we believe that, once at scale, our programming does have the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of millions, or even a billion, fishes. (Note though that our avenue to reach scale is still unclear—see reasons against below.)
Reason #2: FWI’s current impact
We currently estimate that we’ve improved the lives of over 1 million fishes. This makes FWI one of the most promising avenues in the world to reduce farmed fish suffering, and likely the most promising avenue in the world to reduce the suffering of farmed Indian major carp, one of the largest and most neglected species groups of farmed fishes.
Reason #3: FWI is addressing some of the animal movement’s hardest questions
If we are ever going to bring about a world that is truly humane, we will need to address the more neglected groups in animal farming, particularly including farmed fishes and animals farmed in informal economies. We believe that FWI’s work is demonstrating some avenues of helping these groups, and will thus enable other organizations to work more effectively on them. For instance, some of the lessons we learned in implementing our own farmer-centric work later inspired parts of the model that Shrimp Welfare Project is pursuing in their Sustainable Shrimp Farmers of India.
Reason #4: Animal movement building in Asia
Almost 90% of farmed fishes, as well as the majority of farmed terrestrial animals, are in Asia. We thus believe it is critical to launch movements in Asian countries to address the suffering facing these animals, and to expand the animal movement by bringing in new people. We are proud to have hired a local team of about 17 full-time equivalent staff in India as well as contractors in China and the Philippines. We are also proud that most of these people did not work in animal protection previously, and are now more likely to have careers helping animals even after they leave FWI.
Reasons against a donation to FWI
While we think a donation to FWI is one of the more marginally impactful uses of money, it’s not the right fit for all donors. Here’s some reasons, again in descending order of our view of their significance, as to why you may not choose to donate to FWI:
Reason #1: The experimental, unprecedented nature of our work
Even though we are four years into working, FWI is still primarily in an explore/research stage for now. The welfare improvements we’re making and seeking to make have never before been made at the scale or in the contexts where we make them—and the evidence base on how to make such welfare improvements is sparse at best. All these facts have contributed to the frequent pivots we’ve made, and the challenges our current model in India faces (see our upcoming post for a description of these challenges in further detail).
We are heavily investing in R&D in 2024 to determine improved, evidence-based interventions to run in India, which will hopefully enable us to shift more to an implementation phase. However, until we have implemented and evaluated these interventions, we believe a donation to FWI should be regarded as enabling moderate but somewhat uncertain impact right now, and (hopefully) enabling much greater and more certain impact in the future.
Reason #2: Possibly supporting industry intensification
It is possible that by supporting farmers in addressing water quality and disease issues, we enable more farmers to get into the business and/or to make their farms more intensive. Note though that our team has considered this issue in medium depth and do not find it particularly compelling right now, in part because our stocking density caps are designed to prevent intensification. However, we believe it is still a reasonable concern one can have. To learn more about our thoughts here, contact us.
We do not think the belief that fishes lack the ability to feel pain is a good argument against donating to FWI, as there is significant and increasing evidence and consensus that fishes do feel pain like most other vertebrates.
We'll be posting a longer post about our strategy updates and plans for 2024 on the Forum in the coming week. You can also always check out the FAQ section on our donation page for more information.
And of course, we're very happy to respond to any questions or comments posted below :)